Mur décoré d'objets conçus par Catherine Lévy et Sigolène Prébois

Catherine and Sigolène met for the first time when they were sixteen years old in Paris, thanks to Sigolène's brother Christophe, who introduced them to each other after assuring them that they looked very much alike.

At first glance, it was not obvious, but it was true.

They shared the same penchant for eccentricity, the same desire to make everything themselves, and the same will to distinguish themselves by transforming what surrounded them, to better appropriate it.

This was all the more surprising since they both attended classical high schools in rather conservative neighbourhoods, where they both felt quite unique.

A few years later, in 1984, when Sigolène decided to study industrial design, Catherine, who was struggling to learn classical singing and was beginning to doubt her choice, followed her. The Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle wanted to train good designers, betting boldly on the autonomy and responsibility of the students.
Great resources were available to the company and when Sigolène and Catherine entered, about sixty students were frolicking in eleven thousand square metres of premises, of which only a thousand were equipped. After a month, the founders of the School resigned and left the establishment to protest against the questioning of their initial project.
Then there was a small revolution among the students and the headmaster was dismissed. Then most of the teachers left, followed by half of the students. Those who remained cheerfully took over the wood, plastic and metal workshops, the huge empty rooms, the terrace, and, with the few teachers who remained, took advantage of the opportunity to carry out a lot of experiments.

In this broth, once the surprise was over, Catherine and Sigolène felt good.
With another student, Renaud Supiot, they formed the group Braguette Magique, and made latex jewellery of all colours and shapes: hedgehogs, mice, elephants and sperm, dodus, rubbery, pink, blue, polka-dot, striped and colourful. Or a river of strawberries, a collar in the shape of a motorway, and an exceptional piece like the North Pole jacket, decorated with bears and penguins in relief. It was a small underground industry, with latex cans, plaster moulds lined up next to each other, and new ideas every day.
Everyone came to see them, try them out, and even buy them. A friend, Léna Hirzel, a student at the school, suggested that they make them in series and distribute them. She and her husband, Jacques Guillemet, founded the company Pylônes and started production. The success was immediate. Shops all over the world were ordering, and many articles and television programmes were devoted to the three little prodigies whose creativity defied the economic crisis.
Meanwhile, however, the school was becoming a school again and Catherine and Sigolène returned to their studies, happy with their little fame and the pocket money they earned from their royalties. And then, five years after they entered Ensci, they graduated and were very perplexed about their future.

From a laboratory, the workshop became a factory. All sticky with epoxy resin, breathing in its fragrance, they prayed that weather variations wouldn't compromise the mysterious polymerization process on which their honour depended. Fortunately, the School let them use its sanding machines and everyone gave them support and advice. The wager was taken up: the prize-giving ceremony took place, preceded by their appearance on stage to receive a giant cheque (in size, not in zeros). Alas, their joy was short-lived: as the trophies were being handed out to the winners, some were falling apart... Perhaps the glue was too fresh, or the weather too wet for it to set?
They didn't think too much about it, because a happy combination of circumstances (partly due to their notoriety as Magic Flyers) sent them to Tokyo, to decorate a Christmas tree. It was from this trip that they presented themselves under the name of Tsé & Tsé Associates.

Encouraged by the example of friends who had charming costume jewellery made in small quantities by local craftsmen, they decided to follow the same path for their objects, deciding to put aside, at least momentarily, the idea that they were supposed to work for industry. They bought small tomatoes and other plastic dinosaurs and threaded them onto light bulbs, fashioned pockets (for jacket pockets) in the shape of birds, their crests studded with flower pistils, in their expensive velvet, soldered star and fish embossings on hairpins formed by themselves, and then took them to the gilder. They familiarized themselves with invoices, suppliers, and cost prices. Of course, they didn't pay themselves or count their hours, but they marvelled at their work.
They also circled around their small, swollen test tubes, gluing them together to form, for example, an organ bowl that would come undone as soon as water was put in it. One day, they had the idea of articulating them together, with rings welded on rods as if by a system of hinges. So they cut a brass tube the diameter of their test tubes into washers, and had them welded to rods they had cut. Twenty pieces of metal with twenty-one test tubes, repeated, seemed to them to be the right length.
Then water and flowers, and it was the small, wobbly, but wonderful April vase.

It was a sufficiently encouraging success that in September they started production of the April vase, of which they ordered fifty copies: a thousand glass tubes (made especially for them, to their dimensions) and a thousand pieces of metal, almost industrial quantities and a fairly reasonable cost price. They also had to think of a box, a text and explanatory drawings. As soon as they received their prototype (after a few months of harassing their suppliers who were not very interested in this story), they took their courage in all four hands and got an appointment with their favourite florist, Christian Tortu. They went there trembling, carrying their vase full of water and flowers in a mushroom basket on the subway. He immediately liked it and ordered their entire stock. They made the delivery and the next day, spent long minutes in front of his shop, contemplating their flowered vase by the one they admired so much, who, moreover, had placed in his window a small slate on which he specified that it was a creation of Tsé & Tsé associés.


It was the middle of December 1990.
Christian Tortu, contrary to what they had hoped, did not call them immediately to tell them that he had sold all the vases. With the few copies they had left, they organized their first Christmas sale, which lasted three days. Their invitations, small green leaves found in the artificial flower workshop, were sent by mail and aroused curiosity. The clean workshop, arranged in a shop, lit up, seemed fairylike to them.
On display, next to the April vase full of daffodils, were gold and silver hairpins, waterproof pocket vases, bird pouches, plastic garlands of tomatoes, dinosaurs and onions, and a polished openwork nickel silver pocket mirror, all presented with great care. They followed their rare customers step by step, and explained to them how all their inventions worked. By the evening of the third day, they had collected 13,000 francs, and could reorder goods from their suppliers, whose invoices they always paid on delivery, before they had sold anything: this was one of their principles, because, at least, even if nobody ever bought anything from them again, they were sure that they would be able to honour their debts. Fortunately, it didn't come to that.
In January 1991, on the advice of their accountant, they began to pay themselves 300 francs a month, another triumph. And the ship sailed...

They were less convincing when it came to selling, but it was nevertheless necessary to canvass shops. If Christian Tortu, in his impulse, had bought all their stock from them, there was still an exception. Some of them simply did not like their work and let it be known more or less nicely, (without managing to make them doubt it). Elsewhere, they were given a very small order, derisory, ridiculous, even after having shown a boundless enthusiasm. Above all, there were few places that suited their objects: they were not at ease in design galleries, too trendy, too precious.

The next day, he called them to order another one, as he had sold it. They came running, and they picked up the thread of the conversation they had started the day before. There followed a story at the Scheherazade: every day, for several months, he sold a vase, and they came back to deliver it to him. Each time, they discussed for at least an hour, their respective studies, the future of design, their admiration for Noguchi. They liked each other very much.
They would return home full of enthusiasm and in about a year they perfected the Lazy Vase, the Floating Flowers, and the Skeletal Garland. At their Christmas sales, these objects were appreciated, but they still didn't dare to show them outside. The April vase, meanwhile, was beginning a brilliant career in America, in a high-end fashion store in Los Angeles, Maxfield, frequented by the stars. Christian Tortu had introduced him to New York, where he naturally took his place in front of the sash windows. So every evening, they prowled the Trail to collect the packing boxes thrown away by the tailors. They selected the cleanest ones and used them for their shipments.

One winter day in 1993, a fax machine came out of their telephone machine.
Pierre Romanet offered them an exhibition in the annex of the gallery, which served as a showcase for Noguchi lamps. They thought that the recipient was mistaken: he only knew the April vase from their work. But the fax was addressed to Tsé & Tsé Associates. He went to their workshop and instantly adopted all their objects. The date of the vernissage was set for April 1st: time was running out, to make press kits, decide on the invitation, and finalize the products, the packaging, the presentation.

As never before, they worked out an educational scenography, large blackboards on which the objects were stapled. The April vase, for example, was dissected into pieces on one side and assembled on the other. Stumpy cutlery framed a fictitious plate and glass, sketched in chalk. Pierre had a small pool built so that the Floating Flower Buoys could navigate freely among the goldfish. Remembering that they had originally planned to sell the April vase by the meter, they had narrow shelves installed along the entire length of the display case and unrolled lengths of hinged tubes. The filling was perilous, but the zebra-flower display case was stunning. On the other side, they had hung a cluster of lazy vases, filled with flowering pear tree branches and rose-speckled fritillaries. It was the first time they had seen their objects presented in such profusion, and they themselves were dazzled by it. The driver of bus 76, which passed in the street, must have been too, as he slowed down in front of the gallery to admire the show and share it with his passengers.
On the evening of the opening, they went from shadow to light. Even if their fame was very small, the bean they had planted had sprouted, the shoot was solid and vigorous: Tsé & Tsé associés existed. The Sentou gallery never really dismantled the exhibition: the objects stayed there, and multiplied.